By Paul Kasunic, Mission Team 6A (pictured at right)
Medical student and Mission Team 6A member, Paul Kasunic, shares his personal experiences during his mission to Chimbote.
Visiting the mission in Chimbote sponsored by the Diocese of Pittsburgh has been an impactful experience for me as I have grown to be able to walk more by faith than by sight after this mission trip. La Maternidad, home visits to the sick in the barrios, playing with children in the orphanage, and the people of Chimbote, have provided me so much in reciprocity of my service and solidified my decision to be an Osteopathic physician.
I saw the miracle of birth for the first time in La Maternidad and shared another witness of birth with my sister Julie beside me, which is an experience I will forever hold as special to us bonding as siblings. In La Maternidad, I also drew patients’ blood, worked in a laboratory, and shadowed physicians. In the barrios, which are the most impoverished sectors of Chimbote, I visited the sick and expanded my heart to the poorest of the poor. This experience has connected me more to the poor and people who need help the most.
While visiting those sick in the barrios, I was sympathetic towards Jahair, a 17-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who looked so happy even with the saddened life conditions he was living in from my perspective. His mom said he likes to draw and paint with his feet, so she placed a red pencil in between his toes. Jahair began to draw his artwork as I began to draw a tear. I was touched and thought to myself if I ever have child with a disability, I will not treat them differently and still love them with the same joy I will love my other children.
Oscar, a middle-aged man, was another individual in the barrios who touched my heart and provided a reminder to always be grateful for what I have in life. Oscar is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis and his prognosis left me with the utmost sympathy for him. Oscar pleaded to have a bedframe because his current makeshift frame was unsafe and uncomfortable. Our group helped Oscar by purchasing a bedframe for him. The experience of meeting Oscar instilled an even greater gratitude for what I have been given by others.
The orphanage was a joyful part of the journey to Chimbote. Our group helped feed the children and we spent our afternoons playing with them. The joy and laughter of the children still resonate within me today, leaving a smile on my face. I was filled with joy to be able to provide love and care for the orphans who are waiting to be adopted.
Through our group’s mission trip, we were able to witness, aid, and meet the people of Chimbote on their level. We stayed in a seminary where we received bread for breakfast in the morning, had to hand wash laundry, and experience life as the people of Chimbote do daily. We learned about the culture of the town and realized the unemployment and underemployment rates are over 70%. We realized the weight of responsibility sometimes put on children to help their parents. One 35-year-old woman, who was pregnant and suffered with anemia and energy loss, asked her adolescent daughter to go to the soup kitchen a half mile from their house daily to buy food. Without a complaint the daughter obeyed and brought back a meal for both of them. I could not imagine having the same responsibility when I was ten years old. The responsibility, obedience, and care kids have for their parents was evident in Chimbote and I feel compelled to help my family more after the example of a ten-year-old girl.
After witnessing the conditions and people of Chimbote, I reflected upon my decision to enter medical school practicing osteopathic medicine. Chimbote has solidified my pathway to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, because I view the minimum of a doctor’s role to be able to provide the “need” of treatment for their patients. The philosophy of a patient-centered environment from osteopathic medicine has taught me the “need” of treatment and the “want” of patients to be cared for are equally as important. Patients want to be cared for and treated as though they are the only person the doctor will see for the day and provide compassion without reservations.
This trip to Chimbote was an unforgettable journey where I grew in my faith with God and witnessed the locals’ lifestyle on their level of living. The trip provided a grounding feeling of gratitude towards what I have been gifted in life in terms of my family’s care for me, health, and future potential as a physician. The Chimbote Foundation scholarship* which made my journey possible was granted by Mr. Mike Clark, for whom I have the most sincere thanks, because he provided me the opportunity to have a touching, religious-filled, and unforgettable experience in Chimbote, Peru.
*The grants that underwrite Mission experiences like Paul’s are provided through the free-will gifts of mission partners who attend the annual Peru Mission Dinner. We hope you will join us at our upcoming dinner on October 24, 2019. For more information, please visit our Annual Dinner Page.